Articles for September 2010

The growing pains of India

In the startling news recently with Prashant Bhushan leveling some serious charges at our judiciary, many people are aghast. A friend is morose – Kashmir, CWG, corruption, Maoists and now the judiciary…… is India falling apart? Perhaps. I choose to see it as the uncomfortable edge of growth.

Democracy matters. Our judiciary matters. They are the very foundations of our nation. As India today goes through the growing pains of a nation headed into a whole new level of being, things acceptable for long become monuments to the new standards we design for ourselves.

Many things are questioned, redefined. Standards intended for long are enforced with increasing fidelity. Witness the churning happening right now. We are questioning and challenging what happened for years with Kashmir, with the plight of the poor, with inequity, with the Maoists, with the Army, with the police, with politicians, with corruption, with activists, with apologists, with international relations, with the judiciary…. I don’t see this as a freak string of misfortune, I see it as a nation moving into a better state of being which is how all these things are being challenged as unacceptable.

The CWG has indeed done its bit to push India towards superpowerdom, not perhaps in world image as intended, but in our state of being.

The years to come will hold discomfort as we confront the undesirable within and create our destiny. Laws will have to be upheld, examined, made, changed. At this crucial juncture, I think the most fundamental guardian of a democracy – its judiciary –  needs to lead the country for the most beneficial and least traumatic transition.

The judiciary needs to make every effort to be impeccable, transparent and open to self-examination and evolution.

I am proud of what we are going through, because a few years ago, it wouldn’t have mattered.

Want to start a political movement

Indian states by political parties
Image via Wikipedia

I don’t want to create a party as such, though I guess I’ll have to register it as one. I want to start an all inclusive movement, where the idea for administrating the country is not competitive, but collaborative. Anyone can join, even people from political parties. The movement will have no agenda beyond addressing corruption and the needs of the people – whatever ‘group’ they belong to. The whole myth of one group’s gain being another’s loss needs to be replaced by a perspective of abundance. Religious groups will be no different from any other group and will not be considered to represent any entire religion. The government will have no say as such on religion. Neither for, nor against, as long as they play by the law. Looking for collaborators, since I have great ideas, but am not a very organized person.

Citizen's awareness against terrorism

The brazen shooting at the Jama Masjid is an exercise in frustration, it seems. 100 meters from a police station, at a prime target for terrorist attacks on the fabric of the nation, in the capital of a country already on alert for terror attacks, two “amateurs” loitered around in a suspicious manner before shooting at tourists and then got away on a motorcycle!

While it is definitely something for the police to work on, we citizens as a whole are not at all prepared for living in a world where terror attacks are a fact of life. Like living in a city means learning to look carefully before crossing a road, living in the world these days means being alert for possible threats. As a people, we need to learn to notice our surroundings and happenings automatically, like we notice cars on the road automatically.

India, as a country is too laid back and trusting. While it is the charm of India, it is also a need of the changing world that we learn to have boundaries that are enforced. As a country, we go through the motions of security procedures without feeling that need for safety, without entertaining that niggling suspicion about the possibility for harm. Its a facade, while we leave wide open anything not specifically mentioned. Stray luggage shouldn’t be “oh, someone forgot”, but “unidentified, abandoned, possibly threatening object”. If someone truly forgot, its great, it won’t be stolen. If its a bomb, you have saved lives. This can’t be bad.

We should also have a plan of action in case of terrorist attacks. How can we keep ourselves and others safe? How can we help in the perpetrators being caught? Things that immediately come to mind:

  • Get out of the way of immediate danger. Hide, run away.
  • Notify police.
  • Notice, record. Observe the faces of the people. Their clothes. Vehicles, other people who may possibly be with them, but not attacking… Write down, or talk about details with other people around, so that they are not forgotten. A school kid had once suggested that someone write down the numbers of every vehicle in the area and give them to the police. These could turn out important later or if any pattern emerges.
  • Most cell phones have cameras. Use them.
  • See if there are escape routes that can be blocked without too much risk. For example, blocking a street to prevent a getaway, locking main gates of a building, compund…

An idea for Kashmir

tricolor landscape

I only hope someone who matters reads this.

What Kashmir needs is a way of engaging the youth. What the government is doing is saying nothing and inviting any faction to talk. As if that is going to happen. Even if it does, we are going to end up talking to the destroyers of Kashmiri peace on their terms. Bad, bad ground.

What we need is interaction, engagement, listening. Not formal interaction invitations in triplicate, but direct, immediate listening.

Just read in the Times of India that teenage stone pelters are thrown into jail with hardened criminals and terrorists. While it can’t be disputed that their actions – rioting, stone pelting attacks, arson, vandalism… are criminal, we need to have some compassion for a generation that has no concept of peace. They have been demeaned by armed forces, militants. Desensitized by continuous violence and the presence of armed people and the accompanying attitudes all their lives.

Kashmiri Men
Image via Wikipedia

Putting these kids into a prison with hardened criminals is simply an opportunity for them to get further radicalized. We might as well rent out jails for terrorist recruitment purposes.

What we need is a creative solution to the detentions. A way that doesn’t demean the kids. A way that allows them to do something unexpected, possibly fun. After all, doesn’t good will need someone to take the first step?

I’d have said put them in a room with video games, but uh…. might be expensive with those vandalizing tendencies and anger.

However, what if the kids rounded up were simply put in large rooms with white walls, some buckets of paint and other materials? WITHOUT telling them to do anything. Likely the “art” would be anti-national. However, we would have achieved quite a few important things:

  • Provided them with a way of venting their anger safely.
  • Rather than a demeaning cell, it would be more like a group dormitory. In other words, not labeling them criminals for being angry (let’s also remember that some of that anger is well earned)
  • The walls could simply be photographed before being painted blank white again. The photographs SHOULD be shown to people deciding on actions to be taken – that IS your talks with the people. A direct “to do” list of grievances for addressing.
  • Parents would feel less angry with the government if their kids were not abused for getting angry over abuse. It could possibly open dialogues with the parents as well.
  • If absolutely nothing, it still would be an imprisonment with less indignity to it.

Other choices for engaging the pelters:

  • Football or some other sport?
  • Self-defense instruction by some army guys. It would help them feel less vulnerable. Also build those all important ‘macho’ relationships. Show the kids another side of the army – a side that they could possibly like.
  • Video interviews. Forces them to think and interact. Also gives them special attention, listening, being on record.

In any case, they shouldn’t be there with the terrorists.

Perhaps, there could be an area for youth detentions – simple large dorms with whatever security is appropriate.

Above all, it is important to remember that there is no land without its people. We need to stop thinking of Kashmir as ours and Kashmiris as the squatters on it trying to mess things up. These kids are going to live there after the soldiers are gone. We need to start building a world with possibilities.

If you like this idea, do share it around. Perhaps someone who can apply it will see it.

How many roads must a man walk down
Before you call him a man?
Yes, ’n’ how many seas must a white dove sail
Before she sleeps in the sand?
Yes, ’n’ how many times must the cannonballs fly
Before they’re forever banned?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind

How many years can a mountain exist
Before it’s washed to the sea?
Yes, ’n’ how many years can some people exist
Before they’re allowed to be free?
Yes, ’n’ how many times can a man turn his head
Pretending he just doesn’t see?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind

How many times must a man look up
Before he can see the sky?
Yes, ’n’ how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry?
Yes, ’n’ how many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind

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